Preserving panoramic views along motorways through policy


  • Maarten Piek Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
  • Niels Sorel Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
  • Manon van Middelkoop Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency




Motorways were initially built outside cities, and intended to connect them. Nowadays they are an integrated part of the urban landscape. In the Dutch context of high-density land use with a scarcity of open spaces, the challenge of motorway design is shifting from attempts to fit the infrastructure into the landscape towards moulding spatial developments to fit the motorway. This is presenting policymakers with a challenge, as new motorways are rarely being constructed, while urbanisation is an ongoing process. As early as 1928, Professor J.H. Valckenier (Delft University of Technology) wrote about infrastructure’s magnetic effect on urbanisation; the fact that traffic attracts buildings seems to be a law of nature. The question is how to preserve the once so carefully designed and highly valued panoramic views from the motorway. The article sketches the background of this Dutch policy dilemma. Urbanisations along motorways have led to a cluttered landscape. Policymakers, therefore, are attempting to get a grip on urban developments along motorways, to protect the open landscape.

The article provides for a definition of panorama, to provide policymakers with a basis to handle the concept of a motorway panorama. Subsequently this definition is elaborated, and a practical method is presented for identifying motorway panoramas, using GIS techniques. The article discusses the results of the identification of motorways panoramas in the Netherlands. It describes how motorway panoramas are incorporated in Dutch spatial planning. This is followed by concluding remarks. Despite the fact that this article focuses on the Netherlands, the presented method can also be applied in an international context. And although the Dutch policy agenda of wanting to prevent spatial clutter across the landscape carries a strong national connotation, the preservation of open landscapes deserves wider attention.

How to Cite

Piek, M., Sorel, N., & van Middelkoop, M. (2011). Preserving panoramic views along motorways through policy. Research in Urbanism Series, 2, 261–275.



Author Biographies

Maarten Piek, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment

Researcher and urban planner at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the Netherlands. Holding a master in architecture, he trained himself in combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Doing so he initiates new research and knowledge areas. This expertise is being used in a wide range of spatial studies. The ‘visibilitime’ method described in this book is an illustrative result of this expertise. He is also partner of POTH-PIEK Architects R&D, an offi ce for research a design.

Niels Sorel, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

Researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Holding a master in spatial planning, he is involved in a wide range of research projects. Varying from (GIS based) projects on motorway panoramas to land use changes in the rural area and a study on the future development of the rural urban fringe. Current projects are in the fi eld of the institutional aspects of planning such as: an evaluation of the new Dutch spatial planning act, governance of offshore wind energy and the process of area development in relation to environmental laws.

Manon van Middelkoop, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

Researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Her master- and PhD-research were in the fi eld of green areas, leisure and tourism. Subsequently, she worked as a researcher/consultant in that area for 5 years. At the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency she has worked on several projects, including one on ‘motorway panoramas’ and one on ‘Enclosed residential domains in the Netherlands’. Currently, her research interests are in the fields of housing and demography.


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